The Bristol Evening Post has been censured by the Press Complaints Commission for intruding on the funeral of a suicide victim.
The press watchdog upheld a complaint made by the mother of the deceased, Mrs Hazel Cattermole, after the Evening News ran an article headlined “Farewell to our darling son” alongside images of mourners attending the cremation of her son, Mark.
The complaint claimed that on the day of the funeral, a photographer “hiding in bushes outside the crematorium” had to be asked to leave by the undertaker.
Cattermole told the PCC that it was also distressing to find details taken from the order of service and from messages left on flowers outside the crematorium appeared alongside images of the mourners when the article eventually appeared on 26 February.
Publishing its adjudication today, the PCC said the newspaper had not been aware the family wished for no images of the funeral to be published.
The newspaper said that cremations were public events and that its photographer had behaved in a sensitive manner. Out of respect, he had decided to remain between the main gate and the chapel, and was shielded from mourners by a hedge. He was not ‘hiding’ in the bushes, it claimed.
Once the undertaker signalled that he should stop taking pictures, the photographer immediately left.
The journalist had not attended the funeral itself, the newspaper told the PCC, but had picked up an order of service at its conclusion to take down details. She had waited until mourners had left to note the messages on flowers.
Despite this the PCC ruled today that the paper’s behaviour was not appropriate in the context.
It said: “Parents grieving for the loss of their child should not have to be concerned about the behaviour of journalists, or the likelihood that details of the funeral would be covered without their consent.”
The PCC said newspapers have an important role to play in the reporting of tragic events, which it did not wish unduly to restrict, but given the age of the complainant’s son – and the manner in which he died – “the need for restraint and sensitivity on the part of the press was great, as this would inevitably have been a time of intense grief and shock for the boy’s family.”
The adjudication stated: “In this context, it was incumbent on the newspaper to demonstrate that it had paid appropriate regard to the feelings of the family. It was not able to do so.
“In the commission’s view, the newspaper should have taken steps to establish the parents’ wishes before sending a photographer and a journalist to the funeral.
“Once the photographer had been warned away from the funeral, it should have considered the likelihood that the family would object to the publication of his photographs.”
The PCC said that following the complaint, the Bristol Evening Post said it was willing to publish an apology to the family for causing them distress.